The ambition of Turkish Aircraft Industries today is to build the first indigenous Turkish fighter jet, which could also be the world's first Muslim fighter aircraft, and it has invited friendly nations Azerbaijan and Pakistan join the effort. Meanwhile Turkey is trying hard to support its assertive regional policy with military might.
There is a problem: With a fleet consisting mostly of ageing F-16s and a per capita income of barely $9,000 Turkey cannot play the role of a major power.
Echoing the neo-Ottoman ambition, Colonel Ümit Yalım (ret.) recently claimed that the sovereignty of Greece's islands in the North Aegean Sea belongs to Turkey.
Erdoğan wants modern F-16s, while the U.S. Congress has a different opinion: Why give Turkey modern fighter jets if we want peace over the Aegean Sea? That leaves Turkey with one option: Make your own fighter aircraft.
Turkey's ailing economy is experiencing high inflation (at 59% year-on-year), and the country's external debt reached nearly $476 billion in March. The international credit insurance company Allianz Trade reported that the stock of Turkey's total external debt due within the next 12 months has risen to about $250 billion.
Erdoğan made one wrong strategic choice -- trying to align with Russia and America -- and left Turkey's top military planners pondering how to minimize the military and operational damage. The Turkish president should be able to understand that he cannot fully benefit from two clashing civilizations at his convenience.
The ambition of Turkish Aircraft Industries (TAI) today is to build the first indigenous Turkish fighter jet, which could also be the world's first Muslim fighter aircraft. There is a problem: With a fleet consisting mostly of ageing F-16s and a per capita income of barely $9,000 Turkey cannot play the role of a major power. Pictured: A mock-up of TAI's Kaan jet fighter. (Image source: JohnNewton8/Wikimedia Commons)
Turkey, once NATO's staunch southeastern flank sentinel against the Soviet Union, still operates the alliance's second-largest military. These days, NATO's second-largest military has a problem with its aerial firepower.
Turks are proud that their Air Force (TuAF) is the world's ninth-largest. But it is not necessarily the ninth-strongest. According to the World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft, TuAF is not among the world's top 15 militaries listed. Turkey has 110 attack helicopters and 205 fighter/interceptor aircraft, according to Global Firepower. But its fleet of 1,065 military aircraft includes no dedicated attack aircraft.
Traditionally, TuAF has been dependent almost solely on U.S. technology, primarily F-16 fighter jets. In the 1980s, Turkey set a production unit, Turkish Aircraft Industries (TAI), to assemble the F-16s under license from the U.S.-based Lockheed Martin